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Oldonyo Lengai and Usaramba Mountains

Oldonyo Lengai is an active volcano located in Tanzania. Known as the ‘Mountain of God’ in the Maasai language, it is the only active volcano in Tanzania and the third highest peak in the country. The volcano is situated in the Gregory Rift, just south of Lake Natron in the Arusha region of Tanzania. It consists of a volcanic cone with two craters, the northern of which has erupted during historical times. Uniquely for volcanoes on Earth, it has erupted natrocarbonatite, an unusual, cold, and highly fluid type of magma. The peak reaches 2,962m and is an interesting geological destination with the carbonatite rock derived from magma, a unique feature in this region. The hike to the summit takes anywhere from 6-10 hours and often begins in the middle of the night to reach the peak of the volcano.

The Usambara Mountains are located in northeastern Tanzania, forming part of the Eastern Arc Mountains. They are approximately 90 kilometers long and range from 30-50 kilometers in width. The mountains are split into two sub-ranges: the West Usambaras, which are higher, and the East Usambaras, which are closer to the coast and receive more rainfall.

The Usambara Mountains were formed nearly two million years ago by faulting and uplifting, and are composed of Precambrian metamorphic rocks. They are covered with a virgin tropical rainforest that has been isolated for a long period, making them a center of endemism.

The highest point in the Usambara Mountains is Chambolo peak, which stands at 2,289 meters above sea level. The mountains are accessible from the towns of Lushoto in the west, and Amani in the east.

Historically, the mountains were inhabited by Bantu, Shambaa, and Maasai people. In the eighteenth century, a Shambaa kingdom was founded by Mbegha, which eventually fell apart after a succession struggle in 1862. German colonists settled in the area which was to become German East Africa, and after World War I it became part of the British mandated territory of Tanganyika.

The Usambara Mountains are considered a biodiversity hotspot and are home to many protected zones. They offer a unique ecological experience, with their natural regions still covered in tropical forests2. The Tanzanian government, along with various NGOs, research teams, and donor countries such as Norway, are working to expand and contribute to these protected areas.

Oldonyo Lengai and Usambara Mountains